Spurred by the recent lost-their-lease closing of another weekly food distribution center in Brentwood, the Brentwood Community United Methodist Church opened its doors last week to fill the gap – and then some. Making use of food from the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, and volunteers coordinated through St. Vincent DePaul, the church’s former daycare has been converted to a food pantry open twice a week to low-income families.
Together with the Delta Christian Community Food Bank participants from the Byron United Methodist Church, St. Anne Catholic Church, and the Discovery Bay Presbyterian Church, residents in need can get food every weekday.
“Presbyterians, Methodists and Catholics all working together – it’s phenomenal,” said Jeff Schults of the BCUMC. He expects that 300 to 350 families each week will be served by the programs.
In addition to weekly food baskets for families, food can also be provided for children and expectant mothers. Recipients must qualify for the Food Bank as low-income households whose monthly income ranges from $1,361 for a one-person household to $2,794 for four. Additional resources are available, however, to feed anyone who comes through the door.
“Nobody walks out of here empty-handed,” said Schults.
The all-for-one approach to solving problems is one of the things that makes the program special, said Stephen Krank of St. Vincent DePaul. “That’s what’s amazing about the whole (far East County) area,” said Krank. The willingness of disparate congregations to come together to provide assistance rather than just tending to their own flock means more people can be helped. This isn’t ‘These are our poor.’ It’s more like ‘This problem is big enough that we need to get together and do something.’”
The team effort delights, but doesn’t surprise, Dan Sturdivant of the Byron United Methodist Church, who knows interfaith cooperation in far East County is nothing new. “We do stuff together all the time,” Sturdivant said. “It’s all about caring for other people. If we spend all our time talking about (differences in) doctrine, we’re just not getting it.”
Deanna Masterman of the Discovery Bay Presbyterian Church, who helped launch the Food Pantry, said participants in the program get more than just food. Information on job training, bill paying, solving housing problems or providing shelter is all available, as are warm coats in the winter. As word spreads, she hopes additional resources will become available, making it possible to connect even more people with more services.
“It’s always amazing to people how well (the churches) work together,” she said.
Residents from Oakley, Brentwood, Byron and Discovery Bay are eligible to participate in the program, and can sign up through St. Vincent DePaul at 925-439-5060. Distributions are held:
• Monday: Brentwood Community United Methodist Church, 218 Pine St., from 9 a.m. to noon.
• Tuesday: Byron United Methodist Church 14671 Byron Highway, from 10 to 11:30 a.m.
• Wednesday: Brentwood Community United Methodist Church, 218 Pine St., from 9 a.m. to noon.
• Thursday: Family Life Center, 605 Harvest Park Drive in Brentwood, from 7 to 8 p.m.
• Friday: Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church, 500 Fairview Ave. in Brentwood, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.